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RADIATION LEVELS 100,000X NORMAL
The News - Current Events
March 28, 2011
japan radiation 100,000 times normal crisis
As radiation levels at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant reached a new high Sunday, workers contended with dark, steamy conditions in their efforts to repair the facility’s cooling system and stave off a full-blown nuclear meltdown. Wearing respirators, face masks and bulky suits, they fought to reconnect cables and restore power to motor pumps the size of automobiles.

Leaked water sampled from one unit Sunday had 100,000 times the radioactivity of normal background levels, although the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, first calculated an even higher, erroneous, figure it didn’t correct for hours.

Tepco apologized Sunday night when it realized the mistake; it had initially reported radiation levels in the leaked water from the unit 2 reactor as being 10 million times the norm, which prompted an evacuation of the building. [ WASHINGTON POST ] [ Radioactive Water Extends One Mile Into Ocean... ]

 
New Japan earthquake prompts tsunami warning
The News - Natural Disasters
March 27, 2011
new japan earthquake tsunami fears

The BBC's Mark Worthington says many people in Japan are becoming increasingly concerned about what is going to happen in the future. Another earthquake off the north-east coast of Japan has shaken the already devastated region.

The 6.5-magnitude quake, 109km (67 miles) east of the badly-damaged port city of Sendai, prompted a brief warning of a possible small tsunami. A much stronger earthquake on 11 March and the powerful tsunami it triggered killed more than 10,000 people and left many thousands more missing.

Workers are battling to stop radiation leaks at a badly damaged nuclear plant.

There have been no reports of damage or injuries from the latest earthquake, which struck at 0723 on Monday (2223 GMT Sunday), according to the US Geological Survey. The Japan Meteorological Agency warned that a tsunami of 50cm (18 inches) could hit Miyagi prefecture but later lifted the advisory. [ BBC NEWS ]

 
Big earthquakes don't set off others far away - study
The News - Natural Disasters
March 27, 2011
large earthquake disaster

Here's some good news in the wake of Japan's disaster - A new study says big earthquakes don't set off other dangerous ones around the globe. Big earthquakes do trigger local aftershocks, but researchers found no sign of setting off moderate-sized events beyond about 600 miles away.

That won't surprise most experts, said lead study author Tom Parsons. But it's different from his prior research, which did find a global effect for setting off small quakes, said Parsons, of the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif. Parsons and Aaron Velasco of the University of Texas at El Paso reported the work online Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

They looked at worldwide earthquake records for the 30 years ending in 2009. There were 205 big earthquakes, with magnitude of 7 or more, and 25,222 moderate ones with magnitudes between 5 and 7. Then the researchers looked at the timing of these events for evidence that the larger quakes triggered the moderate ones. They checked for delays of up to 24 hours, long enough to let the seismic waves from the big quakes peter out.

 
US officials: Libyan operation could last months
The News - War-Draft
March 27, 2011
libya war confrontation disaster
U.S.-led military action in Libya has bolstered rebels fighting Moammar Gadhafi's forces, but the international operation could continue for months, the Obama administration says.

Ahead of President Barack Obama's national address Monday to explain his decision to act against the Libyan leader, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in appearances on the Sunday talk shows that the intervention had effectively rendered Gadhafi's forces defenseless against air attacks and created the conditions for opposition advances westward.

In interviews taped Saturday, Gates and Clinton also defended the narrowly defined U.N. mandate to prevent atrocities against Libyan civilians and said the U.S. had largely accomplished its goals.

"We have taken out his armor," Gates said, adding that the U.S. soon would relinquish its leading role in enforcing a no-fly zone and striking pro-Gadhafi ground targets intent on violence. [ AP NEWS ]

 
Radiation spreads as crisis likely to continue for "a long time"
The News - Current Events
March 26, 2011
japan radiation nuclear crisis

Low levels of radioactive material iodine-131 were detected Saturday in Heilongjiang Province, north of Beijing, China's National Nuclear Emergency Coordination Committee said.

The radioactive material was likely to have come from the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, the agency said.

However, since the radiation level was below one-hundred-thousandth of the average natural background radiation, it did not pose a risk to public health or the environment, and no protective measures were required, the agency said in a statement.

Repair work at the troubled Fukushima nuclear plant has continued into a third week. More countries are beginning to detect tiny amounts of radioactive iodine and cesium in the air that have drifted across oceans from the overheated nuclear reactors in Fukushima, where a tsunami following a 9.0-magnitude earthquake knocked out its crucial cooling system on March 11. [ XINHUANET ]

 
David Brenner - Countering Radiation Fears With Just the Facts
The News - Current Events
March 26, 2011
david brenner radiation

As soon as David J. Brenner heard about the undersea earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated northern Japan on March 11, he checked a map of the region’s nuclear power plants. One, because of its coastal location and reactor design, looked particularly vulnerable: Fukushima Daiichi. He hoped he was wrong.

Less than a day later, ominous reports of failed cooling systems and radiation leaks at that plant began to emerge. Dr. Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University — the oldest and largest such center in the world — found himself called on repeatedly to explain what was happening with the failed reactors and to assess the radiation risk to public health, both in Japan and around the world.

Dr. Brenner, 57, a native of Liverpool, England, is a physicist who has spent his career studying the effects of radiation on human health. He has published research showing that CT scans increase the cancer risk in children, and he recently testified before Congress, saying that the widespread use of whole-body X-ray scanners at airports would produce 100 extra cases of cancer each year in the United States. [ NYTIMES ]

 
When will sci-fi tech become real? Sooner than you think
The News - Weird-Strange
March 26, 2011
dr michio Kaku
Growing up, physicist Michio Kaku had two heroes. The first, predictably enough for the man who co-founded a branch of string theory, was Albert Einstein.

"Second?" he said. "I used to watch 'Flash Gordon.' "

Kaku, author of the new book "Physics of the Future: How Science Will Change Daily Life by 2100," combines those two loves on the Science Channel, where he hosts "Sci Fi Science" and a tech-themed segment introducing reruns of sci-fi series "Firefly," which airs at 10 p.m. ET Sundays.

"I was thrilled with the idea of starships, monsters from outer space, ray guns," he said. "After a while, I figured out that physics really makes science fiction possible. I figured out that the two passions of my life were the same thing."

We chatted with Kaku about futuristic technology from our favorite science-fiction movies and TV shows. He predicts that that much of it may well come true -- some even within our lifetimes. And while some of it seems far-fetched, he said to consider how our smartphones, laptops and space missions would have been viewed 100 years ago.

"If they were to see you with all of your wizardry, they would consider you a sorcerer to be able to summon up images from all over the world," he said. "But if someone could come today from the 21st century, what will our grandchildren think of us? In the 21st century, they will have the powers of gods." [ CNN.com ]

 
Level of iodine-131 in seawater off chart - 1,250 times above maximum limit
The News - Current Events
March 26, 2011

The level of radioactive iodine detected in seawater near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was 1,250 times above the maximum level allowable, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Saturday, suggesting contamination from the reactors is spreading.

Meanwhile, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. turned on the lights in the control room of the No. 2 reactor the same day, and was analyzing and trying to remove pools of water containing radioactive materials in the turbine buildings of reactors 1 to 3.

The iodine-131 in the seawater was detected at 8:30 a.m. Friday, about 330 meters south of the plant's drain outlets. Previously, the highest amount recorded was about 100 times above the permitted level. If a person drank 500 ml of water containing the newly detected level of contamination, it would be the equivalent of 1 millisievert of radiation, or the average dosage one is exposed to annually, the NISA said.

"It is a substantial amount," NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama told a news conference. 

 
Gaps in US radiation monitoring system revealed
The News - Current Events
March 26, 2011
radiation monitor us devices

Part of the nation's key radiation warning system was out of service as the U.S. braced for possible exposure to the fallout from a nuclear crisis in Japan.

While no dangerous levels of radiation have reached American shores, the test of the monitoring network has spurred some lawmakers to question whether it can adequately safeguard the country against future disasters.

The system is crucial because federal officials use the monitors' readings to validate the impact of nuclear incidents, then alert local governments and the public. In California, home to two seaside nuclear plants located close to earthquake fault lines, federal officials said four of the 11 stationary monitors were offline for repairs or maintenance last week. The Environmental Protection Agency said the machines operate outdoors year-round and periodically need maintenance, but did not fix them until a few days after low levels of radiation began drifting toward the mainland U.S.

About 20 monitors out of 124 nationwide were out of service earlier this week, including units in Harlingen, Tex. and Buffalo, N.Y. on Friday, according to the EPA. [ WSJ ]

 
Swallowed by the Sea
The News - Natural Disasters
March 26, 2011
tsunami atlantis disaster

As Japan reels from the tsunami, archeologists claim to have discovered the lost city of Atlantis, a fabled place built - like much of the world - in the crosshairs of nature.

To the grim list of cities and places wrecked and ruined by the indescribably awful majesty of earthquake-powered tsunamis—Sendai and Fukushima most recently, Banda Aceh in Sumatra six years ago, the west of Java more than a century back—must now be added one that is more famous and enigmatic than all the rest: Atlantis.

For it now turns out that the island-city that for centuries has captured the public imagination as the world’s oldest philosophical wonderland may well have existed after all—and it may have done so right where it has long been thought to have been sited: close to the eastern shores of the Atlantic Ocean. [ NEWSWEEK.com ]

 
A Looming Disaster: Europe
The News - Economy
March 26, 2011
looming siaster japan economy europe

As a nation reels from an earthquake’s destruction, an entire continent faces an economic crisis of its own.

While the world has been transfixed with Japan, Europe has been struggling to avoid another financial crisis. On any Richter scale of economic threats, this may ultimately count more than Japan’s grim tragedy. One reason is size. Europe represents about 20 percent of the world economy; Japan’s share is about 6 percent. Another is that Japan may recover faster than is now imagined; that happened after the 1995 Kobe earthquake. But it’s hard to discuss the “world economic crisis” in the past tense as long as Europe’s debt problem festers—and it does.

Just last week, European leaders were putting the finishing touches on a plan to enlarge a bailout fund from an effective size of roughly €250 billion (about $350 billion) to €440 billion ($615 billion) and eventually to €500 billion ($700 billion). By lending to stricken debtor nations, the fund would aim to prevent them from defaulting on their government bonds, which could have ruinous repercussions. Banks could suffer huge losses on their bond portfolios; investors could panic and dump all European bonds; Europe and the world could relapse into recession. [ NEWSWEEK.COM ]

 
From Japan's damaged nuclear complex: radiation and fear
The News - Current Events
March 26, 2011
japan nuclear radiation fear disaster
In the wake of a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the powerful tsunami that followed, the stricken nuclear reactors at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant released not one but two powerful and invisible forces: radiation and fear of radiation.

Both can spread quickly, and with insidious stealth. They permeate walls, make no distinction between rich and poor, and are particularly hard on children.

And elevated levels of either can have long-term health consequences.

To be sure, to those living close to the Fukushima power plant or who have been told to avoid contaminated water, milk and spinach, the health threat posed by radiation is very real. And the ultimate scope of the accident is still unclear.

But as events continued to unfold last week, psychologists and engineers alike noted that fear of radiation had spread farther and more virulently than has radiation itself. And it may be just as dangerous. [ LA TIMES ]
 
44% of Americans See Natural Disasters as Sign of End Times
The News - Religion
March 25, 2011
america natural disaster god religion

According to just over half of Americans, God is in control of everything that happens on Earth. But slightly fewer are willing to blame an omnipotent power for natural disasters such as Japan's earthquake and tsunami.

A new poll finds that 56 percent of Americans agree or mostly agree that God is in control of all Earthly events. Forty-four percent think that natural disasters are or could be a sign from the Almighty. The fire-and-brimstone version of a vengeful God is even less popular in America: Only 29 percent of people felt that God sometimes punishes an entire nation for the sins of a few individuals.

Nonetheless, the desire to turn to God for an explanation after a disaster is a widespread human urge, said Scott Schieman, a sociologist at the University of Toronto who studies people's beliefs about God's influence on daily life. "There's just something about the randomness of the universe that is too unsettling," Schieman told LiveScience. "We like explanations for why things happen … many times people weave in these divine narratives." [ LIVE SCIENCE ]

 
Many killed in Myanmar earthquake
The News - Natural Disasters
March 25, 2011
70 killed myanmar earthquake disaster

More than 70 people have died after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Myanmar-Thailand border area.

More than 70 people have been killed and 100 injured after a strong earthquake struck northeastern Myanmar near its border with Thailand, officials said, adding, the toll may rise.

Myanmar state radio announced on Friday that 74 people had been killed and 111 injured in the quake, but was updating the total frequently. It said that 390 houses, 14 Buddhist monasteries and nine government buildings were damaged, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The 6.8-magnitude quake shook buildings as far away as the Thai capital Bangkok, almost 800km from the epicentre, on Thursday night.

No tsunami warning was issued after the quake as US seismologists said it was too far inland to generate a devastating wave in the Indian Ocean.

 
Oldest US nuclear reactor: a 'disaster' in waiting?
The News - Current Events
March 25, 2011
us nuclear disaster prediction
A sleepy New Jersey town has popped onto people's radar screens because it has the oldest running nuclear power plant in the United States -- and, some say, the most dangerous.

Named for a Revolutionary War general, Lacey is the kind of American town that few from outside the seaside settlement knew much about before the earthquake and tsunami in Japan triggered a nuclear crisis.

Down the road from the 1950s-style diner and across from the bridge that locals use as a fishing pier stands the Oyster Creek nuclear plant.

It uses a GE Mark I Boiling Water reactor identical to those that lost power at Japan's Fukushima plant in the March 11 earthquake and then was struck by a tsunami that knocked out its backup generators, causing reactor cooling functions to fail. [ YAHOO ]

 
Nuclear storm warnings?
The News - War-Draft
March 25, 2011

White House Science Advisor John Holdren and Sir John Beddington, Science Advisor to British Prime Minister David Cameron, in a recent joint article "Celestial Storm Warnings" published in the New York Times, warned that a solar flare from the Sun could cause a great geomagnetic storm, with catastrophic consequences for the United States and the world.  A great geomagnetic storm would generate a powerful electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that could destroy electronic systems and collapse all the critical infrastructures--power grids, communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water--that sustain modern civilization, and the lives of millions.  Holdren and Beddington write reassuringly that "work to protect our societies is well underway."  

Unfortunately, the truth is that work to protect our societies has not even begun.  Those of us who have dedicated careers to protecting the American people from an EMP catastrophe know that no actual technical work is yet underway to physically protect the national power grid from EMP.  We are running out of time to make this happen.  As Holdren and Beddington note, the solar maximum, and increased possibility of a great geomagnetic storm, is fast approaching, now less than a year away. 

The press remains largely in the dark or indifferent to the EMP threat.  For example, on February 15 (the same day as a worrisome solar flare that fortunately missed the Earth) a new Congressional Caucus convened for the first time--the Congressional Caucus on EMP.  And the EMP Caucus rolled out a newly minted bill--the SHIELD Act (HR 668).  Both the Caucus and the SHIELD Act are intended to protect the U.S. national power grid from an EMP event generated by the Sun or  by hostile actors. [ TheHill.com ]

 
Japan reactor core may be leaking radioactive material
The News - Climate-Environment
March 25, 2011
japan nuclear reactor leaking
Authorities in Japan raised the prospect Friday of a likely breach in the all-important containment vessel of the No. 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a potentially ominous development in the race to prevent a large-scale release of radiation.

Contaminated water likely seeped through the containment vessel protecting the reactor's core, said Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Three men working near the No. 3 reactor Thursday stepped into water that had 10,000 times the amount of radiation typical for a nuclear plant, Nishiyama said. An analysis of the contamination suggests "some sort of leakage" from the reactor core, signaling a possible break of the containment vessel that houses the core, he said.

The workers have been hospitalized, according to the agency. [ CNN.com ]

 
Nuclear Meltdown : The Manhattan Scenario
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 24, 2011
nuclear meltdown manhattan scenario disaster

The two operating nuclear reactors known as Indian Point are situated in Buchanan, N.Y. - just 35 miles from midtown Manhattan. More than 17 million people live within 50 miles of these plants.

How might a meltdown start? An earthquake, obviously, is among the scenarios. Others include various forms of terrorist attacks. Regardless of the trigger, a meltdown would follow several specific stages.

First, as cooling water dissipated from the reactor core, intensely hot radioactive pellets in the fuel rods would overheat and swell, and their zirconium cladding would oxidize and rupture. Then the pellets themselves would begin to melt. (Many details described here reflect a study of Indian Point by Edwin S. Lyman.)

If the molten fuel core were to hit the bottom of the reactor vessel, it would trigger massive steam explosions that could blow the reactor vessel apart. The eventual distribution of radioactive elements would depend on several factors, including the weather. Both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency require an evacuation plan for a 10-mile radius of the reactor: an off-site alarm set to go off 30 minutes after an event began would allow time for the operators to determine the extent of the damage. That would leave 78 minutes from the alarm’s sounding to the beginning of the radioactive release.

 
Doomsday bunker sales on the rise
The News - Current Events
March 24, 2011
doomsday bunker disaster scenario
A devastating earthquake strikes Japan. A massive tsunami kills thousands. Fears of a nuclear meltdown run rampant. Bloodshed and violence escalate in Libya.

And U.S. companies selling doomsday bunkers are seeing sales skyrocket anywhere from 20% to 1,000%.

Northwest Shelter Systems, which offers shelters ranging in price from $200,000 to $20 million, has seen sales surge 70% since the uprisings in the Middle East, with the Japanese earthquake only spurring further interest. In hard numbers, that's 12 shelters already booked when the company normally sells four shelters per year.

"Sales have gone through the roof, to the point where we are having trouble keeping up," said Northwest Shelter Systems owner Kevin Thompson.

 
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